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The West’s Belarusian Problem: ‘Better Lukashenka in Minsk than Russian Tanks in Brest’


Paul Goble


Staunton,November 4 – Poland and its Western allies face serious problems in dealingwith Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s repressive regime, but none is more difficult thanaddressing the conundrum reflected in the observation of some that “betterLukashenka in Minsk than Russian tanks in Brest.”


Thatconclusion is suggested by Serhii Pelesa, the host of a program on the Belsatnews agency directed at Belarus but based in Poland; and it means that the Westcan only push Lukashenka so far on human rights lest it risk a Russianintervention that would lead to an even worse situation (belsat.eu/ru/news/luchshe-lukashenko-v-minske-chem-russkie-tanki-v-breste/).



That leaves many in the West andperhaps even more in Belarus unhappy given the changes they would like to seein Belarus, but the possibility this notion captures underscores that there issomething worse for Belarus and the West than the current situation – and thatthere are those in Moscow who would like to see it happen.


But Pelesa and the Polish experts hehas spoken with agree on something else: this situation is also unsatisfactoryfor Lukashenka who would like to get more from the West than it is prepared togive but who can’t afford to take the kind of actions that would allow that tohappen.


Any significant liberalization,however welcome in Belarus and the West, would be viewed with alarm in Moscowand might lead Vladimir Putin to invade and attempt to absorb Belarus much ashe seized Ukraine’s Crimea in 2014, an action the West has not yet shown anywillingness to put the kind of obstacles in his path that might forestall thatfrom happening.


And so the game is likely to go onin much the same way as it has in recent months, with Lukashenka remainingrepressive at home and navigating between supporting Moscow on some things andthe West on others, hoping that there will be a breakthrough that will his lossof power and prevent Putin’s tanks from moving westward.

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